Thirty-four years after it debuted – and then disappeared – New Coke is back.
The often-maligned soda goes on sale online Thursday as part of a tie-in with the Netflix show “Stranger Things,” Coca-Cola announced Tuesday.
The third season of the show set in the 1980s launches on July 4 and will take place in 1985. That year, Coca-Cola angered soda drinkers with the launch of a new version of its flagship drink. New Coke quickly became an example of misgauging consumer demand and remains a punchline three and a half decades later.
The 12-ounce cans of New Coke, made from the same recipe that sparked the 1985 revolt, will go on sale at 5 p.m. ET at cokestore.com. They’ll be part of a bundle when shoppers buy at least two limited-edition “Stranger Things” Coca-Cola or Coke Zero Sugar eight-ounce glass bottles.
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Free cans of New Coke will also be available for a limited time via an upside-down “Stranger Things”-inspired vending machine in select cities, starting Thursday in New York. And people who buy a ticket or gift at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta on certain days during the week of June 3 will have a chance to get New Coke cans as a gift, while supplies last.
“When Netflix told us Season 3 was going to be set in the summer of 1985 – with the tagline that ‘one summer could change everything’ – that rang so true for us,” said Oana Vlad, director of Coca-Cola Trademark, Coca-Cola North America. “The summer of 1985 did in fact change everything for us with the introduction of New Coke, which was also arguably one of the biggest pop culture moments of that year.”
She explained that once Coca-Cola realized how large a role the beverage would play in the show, the company decided to revive the soda.
New Coke, the Edsel of the soda world, was available for 79 days in 1985, and the Atlanta soda giant is now predicting the new batch will be gone even faster.
Coca-Cola has had more than a dozen cameos in the first two seasons of “Stranger Things,” including the notable scene where Eleven crushes the Coke can with her mind.
The beverage giant is playing this tie-in just right, says New York City-based branding consultant Allen Adamson.
“The challenge today for any brand is to break through and to create some energy and some buzz and to try to get a little sizzle in the marketplace,” he said. “This is a way to do it behind a product that tasted great, but (didn’t) have the authenticity front. It’s a different time and a different place.”
There’s no downside to Coca-Cola reminding people of its giant misstep, because consumers can still get regular Coke whenever they want, Allen says. Plus, it lets people who are curious or nostalgic about New Coke taste it, he says.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer